Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Q&A with Robert Dugoni

Robert Dugoni is the author of the new thriller The Eighth Sister. His many other novels include A Steep Price and The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell. 

Q: Why did you decide to focus on your character Charles Jenkins, who's appeared before in your work, in this new novel? 

A: I had a story fall into my lap. A true story of a CIA agent accused of espionage. Long story short, I wanted to write a novel and Jenkins, a former CIA agent living on Camano Island, was perfect for the novel I was crafting. He’d worked against the KGB in Mexico City. He was now married with kids and therefore vulnerable.  

The Eighth Sister isn’t based on a true story, though the trial pretty strongly reflects true events. I also really had a soft spot for Jenkins. I thought he was a character people would enjoy getting to know.  

Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make changes along the way? 

A: In the sense that I knew there was going to be a trial and Jenkins was going to risk being sent away for life. Beyond that, I never script how my stories are going to end. I much prefer to let the characters figure it out from the way the story flows both in terms of plot, but also in terms of emotion. 

I’ve found an ending can have a lot more emotional impact coming from the characters and if I try to write to an ending, then I’m trying to squeeze the characters into the plot rather than let the plot come from the characters.  

Q: Did you need to do much research to write this novel? 

A: A lot. I was lucky to have three people assisting me with the spy craft and how Jenkins might escape from Russia. I was also fortunate enough to have visited Russia back in 1998 just after the collapse of the Soviet Union. So I had a strong feel for the country and the people. But again, I relied on two additional men who worked in the Soviet Union for decades to really help me with the details of life there and societal beliefs. 

Beyond that, I spent a lot of time on Google maps retracing places I had been and trying to recreate them. I must have done something right since Martin Cruz Smith, author of Gorky Park, called the novel “a roadmap of Moscow.”  

Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story? 

A: I just want them to enjoy it. I want them to pick it up, start reading and not be able to put it down. I want them to worry about Jenkins, worry about his family, and find characters to love and to hate. I want to immerse them in a world they know nothing about, allow them to travel to Russia and to experience it.  

Q: What are you working on now? 

A: I’m working on the seventh Tracy Crosswhite novel, A Cold Trail, which is nearly done and will be out in 2019, and I’m researching and writing the sequel to The Eighth Sister, called The Last Agent

Q: Anything else we should know? 

A: I’ll be appearing at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Arizona, or readers can go to the store website and get a signed copy of The Eighth Sister mailed to them. I also will be at BookTree in Kirkland and at Towncenter Books in Pleasanton. 

There’s more information on my website. 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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